It’s often said in 12-step meetings that hearing and seeing the word “god” makes certain people think the program won’t work for them. While it’s quickly pointed out that the program is spiritual, not religious, the point it brings up is important. In the U.S., there has been a continued decline in the number of people who affiliate with a religion. Likewise, there is an increase in those who have either no affiliation or consider themselves agnostic. Although religion and spirituality are different, they both relate to a connection to a power greater than oneself. Is that connection required to get sober? The simple answer is no. There are, of course, no medical interventions that can cure substance use disorder, but there are non-spiritual options. Alternative programs of recovery, such as SMART (Self-Management Recovery Training), focus on gaining personal power in treating addictive disorders. There are also 12-step meetings that are tailored to agnostic people.
Many crave a spiritual life but struggle to untangle spirituality from their aversion to organized religion. At the same time, others have no real attachment to either idea. The struggle often lies in the loosely defined nature of spirituality. Often, those who hope to attain spirituality have no idea how to begin making such a connection. The inclusive thing about spirituality lies in its comprehensive definition: “having to do with the spirit”. Different from religion, spirituality is personally defined. 12-step programs communicate that a higher power is individually defined. For many people, this helps them to give their thoughts and actions over to it. Where does one begin to craft their own definition of “god”?
For most people, life is filled with a constant hum of information. Social media offers people a way to express themselves constantly. The news cycle never ends, and no subject is taboo. Family or partners may influence us towards a specific religious practice. A negative association may exist with some definitions of god. Maybe we had negative experiences early in life, or judge a particular spiritual practice because it’s more on the fringe than others.
A best practice is to get quiet when seeking a personal spiritual path. Get away from the constant outside influence and visit a place in nature that inspires feelings of peace. This can be an outcropping of rock at the beach or a forest trail. Leave the phone in the car and take the time to be alone. You might bring a journal to write down any thoughts that come to mind or practice a short meditation. It may be necessary to disconnect frequently and return to a place where the noise of the world is quiet. Try to release any expectation of finding anything specific or being divinely inspired. When it comes to spirituality, most people never see the burning bush they hope to. Instead, the connection comes on slowly and often remains relatively undefined.
Try Things On
Remember that spirituality is defined as having to do with the spirit. Consider what sparks your interest and what brings about feelings of resistance while crafting your personal practice. Many books and blogs touch on the topic of spirituality. Pay special attention to any spiritual path or religious tradition that has sparked your interest in the past. Give these methods a closer look, and avoid contempt prior to investigation. Ask those that are involved in a practice of their own and be open-minded about suggestions. Attend local gatherings and services and speak to others attending. Be willing to try out new things.
As spirituality is a personal journey, consider what a set of personal values looks like to you. Begin striving to live out those principles in your daily life. Journal about what your higher power or “god” would need to look like to inspire trust and faith. You should also consider the things you find undesirable in spiritual practices that make you uncomfortable. Design a spiritual outline and practice it. Be patient and allow time and experience to fill in the gaps. Be open-minded and flexible as new information flows in. Try forms of prayer and meditation, and allow space for them to feel right or wrong. Spirituality is a personal experience.
There is enlightenment in seeking to develop a spiritual life. While it is by no means a requirement for sobriety, many have found it a useful part of a recovery program. Open-mindedness and willingness are essential to this journey.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.